Mohammad Al Najjar
“I was working as a school teacher, but after I gave birth to my first child about two years ago, I had to quit my job in order to raise him because it is not an easy task and it requires that I am available to raise him.” Ola, a 32 year-old Syrian woman living in Jarablos in Northern Syria, says during our interview with her that she agreed with her husband to do that, and she quit her job at the school to raise her kid because there is no nursery that can look after him while she’s at work, and because of other reasons like the importance of a mother being near her child at an early age.
Many Syrian women had to leave their jobs to raise their children due to the lack of nurseries that can look after them while they are at work, especially that not all jobs undertaken by men can be suitable for Syrian women, due to customs and traditions governing the society.
Several Syrian women that we interviewed attribute having to leave their jobs and sit at home to the lack of suitable nurseries that can look after their children while they go to work, especially families that do not have any relatives they can depend on for that.
Extra time needed
It is a reality lived by many Syrian women after the recent emergence of the concept of working alongside the husband, breaking customs and traditions that once forbade women from working. Nevertheless, life’s commitments became bigger and could no longer be borne by the husband alone. However, some women had to quit their jobs for full-time child rearing.
Even though the economical challenges force Syrian women to join the work force, their family obligations at the same time force them to be present alongside their children, noting there are no nurseries to look after their children during their working hours.
There are no accurate statistics for the number of women in Syria, but some governmental statistics provided a rough figure of their number. In August of last year, the Supreme Judicial Committee for Local Administration Elections of the Syrian regime announced the numbers of Syrian citizens who are eligible to choose candidates for the local administration elections.
The number of Syrian women over the age of 18 who are eligible to vote is estimated at 8,222,701 citizens, in addition to 8,126,156 male citizens. This statistical figure is the first figure issued by the regime’s government in eight years.
The average wage of any female worker or employee in Syria is considered insufficient for covering the expenses of private kindergartens, whose fees approximately range between 400 USD and 1000 USD per year.
Unassertive Education Centers
Miss Ibtisam works at Ihsan Center of the local council in Jarablos, she says: “we are in desperate need of transportation means to provide safe transportation for children, especially if they come to the city from neighbouring villages.”
Miss Amira Najjar from the Popular Education Center in Jarablos says: “there are no model kindergartens in Jarablos for female employees’ children. But there is one kindergarten for the teachers’ children and trainees’ children here at the center and it belongs to the local council.”
Moreover, she stresses that the kindergarten needs to be developed especially that it is not a model one in many aspects, whereas the number of women benefiting from the kindergarten is approximately 30 women.
In the northern Syrian city of Azaz where more than 150,000 people reside, the number of private kindergartens is estimated at 16 private and paid kindergartens, whereas kindergartens belonging to the local council are only three, according to Mr. Yaser Al Hamdosh Director of the Media Office at the local council of Azaz city. The number of students in these kindergartens as he estimates is 550 students, which is an excess number for the kindergartens’ capacity. Al Hamdosh says the city needs eight more kindergartens belonging to the local council to fill its needs. Whereas the number of teachers teaching this big number of students is only 23 teachers.
In Afrin, there is one active kindergarten within the city and there is another kindergarten for orphans, which is a part of their own school, and this does not cover the needs of the people living in that area.
According to Suad (27 year old) who is residing in the northern Syrian city of Jarablos, if a woman is employed she often requests the help of her relatives or parents in looking after her children until she gets off work.
She goes on to say that there are also women who have found alternative solutions but which are not sufficient, like creating home-based job opportunities for them such as private teaching or making accessories from beads or preparing seasonal foods and selling them “provisions”. Unfortunately, these jobs often generate low income but are suitable for women who prefer not to leave their kids and go to work.
Due to the lack of kindergartens in northern Syria or the presence of non-ideal ones in terms of service according to some residents in the area, Syrian women who are employed sometimes resort to insufficient but necessary solutions, at a time when they know that quitting their jobs would lead to an economic crisis as heads of their households, as was mentioned in interviews we conducted with some women in Jarablos city.
Some women request the help of their relatives or parents in looking after their children when they go to work, while others seek to create home-based job opportunities so they can be near their children and at the same time continue working.
According to article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
The low economic standard of living in Syria pushed the Syrian women towards new occupations they were not accustomed to, like drilling operations, cleaning streets, paving roads, construction work, cleaning buildings and others.
On the other hand, the influx of Syrian refugees to neighbouring countries forced Syrian women to work in different fields. In 2018, the Turkish ministry of interior estimated the percentage of working Syrian women at 44% of the total Syrian working class in Turkey.
An economic study conducted by United Press International Agency confirmed that the percentage of Syrian women working in counties of asylum is much higher than it was in Syria. Prior to 2011, the percentage of Syrian women listed in the total working group was 13%, and this rate was amongst the lowest in the world.
The study published in 2019 showed that more than a quarter of Syrian female refugees in Turkey and Lebanon and more than half of them in Jordan have joined the labor force. However, the most common problems faced by Syrian women are the long working hours, the low wages, the lack of reliable and safe transportation to work, and the fear of being harassed in the workplace.
Local councils in northern Syria say they are working to find the solutions to help women return to their jobs while their children are cared for in specific nurseries for them. These solutions remain unassertive within the current capabilities of these councils. Will these solutions help teacher “Ola” return to her teaching career and place her children at a specific nursery for working women?